A church does not have to be a “super church” or have hundreds at a weekly student gathering to reach and impact college students for faith in Christ. Your church might just have 35 every week or that might be the core that will broaden your impact. But, each individual student has the possibility of being a world impact person. I’ve never forgotten the story about the church that had a two-week revival and only one little boy came to faith in Christ. Whatever happened to Billy Graham anyway?
Regardless of the size of your church or the size of your budget, here are 5 key things your church can do to reach and impact college students.
1. Provide consistent ongoing leadership.
One of the two most common killers of college ministry is continual turnover of the leadership. If your church staff person assigned to collegiate ministry is continually changing or leaving, it has a huge negative impact. When your Bible study or Sunday School teachers are different every year, it is a ministry killer. Any time there is a change in leadership, students are lost in the transition. No one realizes some students from the year before are not there. Relationships are the currency God uses most frequently. A rotating door in your college ministry leadership will never get your ministry to its fullest possibility.
2. Train and empower student leaders.
The best thing that can happen to your ministry is when students are excited about it and are inviting their friends. Give time, effort, and priority to developing students who will lead out in the ministry. It is the great multiplier of college ministry. Students can reach students a college minister or volunteers can never reach.
3. Make students part of the church as a whole.
In a desire to provide exactly what students need and want, sometimes we segregate them into a separate ministry. This is not beneficial to students’ long-term commitment to and involvement in the church. Ask students to play in your worship band, or have them lead in prayer. They can usher. Involving college students in these ways will develop a greater awareness of college ministry in the church as a whole. It will train and develop students for service in churches in the years to come. Many youth leave church following high school graduation because they were only part of the youth group, not part of the whole church. Let’s not make the same mistake in college ministry.
4. Teach the Bible, not just good books.
There are a ton of great Christian books college students should read. But, it is sometimes surprising to find how many college ministries have all kinds of studies using some of the great Christian books. But, none of the groups are studying the Bible … NONE! Make sure that your college ministry studies the Bible, no matter what else good stuff is being offered.
5. Connect students to adult mentors in the church.
Students want to learn from and enjoy the wisdom of those who have been there and done that. Students with poor family backgrounds want to see how healthy families work. Students going into business, medicine, teaching, etc. want to see how Christians do their professions. The number one thing a college ministry church has to offer that no campus-based ministry can provide is the abundance of adult mentors. One church I know has a monthly student lunch hosted by a different Sunday School group of adults who eat with and visit with the students. It is a simple but profound idea and concept.
Your church does not have to reach hundreds of students to impact the world for the cause of Christ. Just do what God has provided the opportunity for you to do.
Arliss Dickerson served as Baptist Campus Minister at Arkansas State University for 32 years and serves as Leadership Development Consultant for the Collegiate Ministry Office at LifeWay. Currently, he’s the Interim Collegiate Minister at First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Arkansas. He is a husband, father, grandfather, growing believer, and poor but improving golfer. He loves collegiate ministers!